Madam Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for Calgary Midnapore.
Here we are, debating the new NAFTA, which is sometimes called the USMCA. I know the government is calling it CUSMA. Others call it NAFTA 2.0. Others call it NAFTA 0.5. We are going to call it the new NAFTA. It does not matter what name we want to call it. A rose by any other name is still a rose, except that with this rose the bloom went off it a long time ago. This is a deeply flawed agreement that could have been so much better.
While I will be supporting this bill going forward to committee for review, this is really a story of a squandered opportunity, and I will explain that in a minute.
By the way, I have listened with amusement to my colleagues on the Liberal side claiming to now be the champions of trade. I harken back to when the original Canada-U.S. free trade agreement was being negotiated by Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney. That agreement eventually morphed to NAFTA. During an election, the Liberals actually said they were going to vote against it. They were not going to approve this massive trade agreement between Canada and the United States. Of course, as soon as they were elected they affirmed the agreement.
That is how Liberals do it. They try to take credit for the work of others and score political points. We will not take any lessons from the Liberals on trade.
In fact, I want to highlight that basically 95% of the value of all trade agreements that Canada has signed has been negotiated under a Conservative government, starting with the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, going all the way through to the Canada-EU trade agreement and the original TPP. Those are all Conservative accomplishments.
The reason this new NAFTA is so important is that the United States is by far the largest trading partner for Canada with $900 billion a year of bilateral trade. Every single day there is over two billion dollars' worth of trade in goods and services that cross our common border with the United States. That is why it is important that we get this right.
Our trade levels with the United States are somewhere in the order of nine times more than our next-largest trade partner, which is China. Let us think about that. A lot of people are saying we need to diversify and we need to focus on China. I would say to them to keep their eyes on the ball. The United States will always be our largest trading partner and we had better get that relationship right before we look to diversify elsewhere in the world.
Why is this revised trade deal, the new NAFTA, a squandered opportunity? The Liberal government got completely outplayed and outfoxed by Donald Trump.
First, let us ask ourselves what standard we should use to measure this new NAFTA. What measure should determine whether this agreement is good for Canada and one that we should be supporting? Perhaps it is by the standard set by the Prime Minister himself, who said he was going to come back with a better deal than we had before. By all measures the Prime Minister failed on that account.
We remember he said he was going to deliver a win-win-win, so there would be a win for us, a win for the United States and a win for Mexico. That implies there would be a net gain for each of those parties. In fact, this agreement is all about Canada conceding to the United States with virtually no concessions in return. Let us talk about that. We know that Donald Trump is the master of the quid pro quo, so we expect that he would be involved in a back-and-forth: “You give me a concession; I will give you a concession”. That is the way trade agreements are normally negotiated, except for this time.
The Prime Minister did not deliver an agreement that was better than the one we had before. We just conceded and conceded and conceded. Why on earth would the Prime Minister have embraced a negotiation with Donald Trump? He proactively reached out to Donald Trump and said he would be glad to negotiate an agreement. Why on earth would anyone volunteer to renegotiate a trade deal on preconditions set by Donald Trump?
John Ivison of the National Post said:
Politicians, like gamblers, need to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. [The Prime Minister’s] pre-emptive decision to tell one of the planet’s most voracious deal-makers that Canada was willing to renegotiate NAFTA, without even being asked, was naïve.
Our national media is saying that the Prime Minister was naive to proactively want to negotiate a new NAFTA, because at the end of the day, what we see is that we got a lesser deal than we had before. What is worse is that this is effectively an asymmetrical trade deal. Most of the benefits of this negotiation are going to the United States. Very few, if any, concessions are given by the United States to Canada.
Let us quickly look at what Canada gave up or failed to achieve. One of the major failings, of course, is that the new NAFTA does nothing to address the long-standing softwood lumber dispute. Canada's forest industry, especially in my home province of B.C., is in crisis mode, because the Prime Minister has failed to deliver on his promise to resolve this dispute.
Members may remember that back in March 2016 in the White House rose garden our Prime Minister and President Obama promised to resolve this dispute. Here is exactly what our Prime Minister said on that day, “I’m confident that we are on a track towards resolving this irritant in the coming weeks and months.”
Here we are, almost four years later, and there is no softwood lumber resolution in sight. By all accounts that is a failure that lies at the feet of this Liberal government. The NAFTA renegotiation was a perfect opportunity to resolve this dispute, but it did not get done.
Then there are the buy America provisions. The United States has effectively said that in many of the states, if large projects and large procurement contracts are tendered, only American companies can compete or participate. Canadian companies are shut out. Those are called buy America provisions.
This trade negotiation, the new NAFTA, was a perfect opportunity to resolve that dispute. It did not get done, which is another lost opportunity, another failure.
Our Liberal friends also agreed to give major concessions on dairy, eggs and poultry, without any American concessions in return. Those concessions were big enough that, as my colleague who spoke just before me mentioned, the government had to come up with compensation to cover for those concessions. Guess who pays for that compensation. Canadian taxpayers pay for that. The Prime Minister has actually cost us money as taxpayers as a result of this negotiation.
What is worse is that, after making those concessions, the Prime Minister also agreed that he would limit the exports of value-added dairy products, like powdered milk and diafiltered milk products.
It gets worse. To add insult to injury, our fearless Liberal negotiators even agreed that if Canada ever wants to change its milk pricing and classing regime, we have to go begging, cap in hand, to the United States to ask for permission. We have effectively given away a piece of our sovereignty. Shame on the government.
There is another concession the Prime Minister made. He gave up the right to an investor-state dispute settlement, which protects Canadian companies and allows them to sue the American government if it acts discriminatingly against them. Now the remedy is they have to go to the American courts.
Another thing the Prime Minister gave away is a veto to the United States on any trade negotiation with a non-market economy. In other words, the President of the United States can veto our ability to actually negotiate an agreement with any country that does not have a free market economy based on free market principles, like China. However, the United States itself has already negotiated a deal, placing us at a competitive disadvantage. It goes on and on and on.
This is a failed deal, yet we are going to support it because this relationship with the United States is so critical. We want the assurance for our Canadian businesses that they can continue to do business with the United States and with our other NAFTA partner, Mexico.